"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day of Anger (NGP, 1967)


OK if you like spaghetti




 
 
Day of Anger (original title I giorni dell’ira) was a classic spaghetti western with Lee Van Cleef. It was directed and co-written by Tonino Valerii, well known to spaghettisti for My Name is Nobody. He was a Leone acolyte and contributed to the script of A Fistful of Dollars, and directed other spaghettis with Craig Hill and James Coburn. So I guess if you like spaghetti westerns he’s a top guy. Certainly the opening titles of Day of Anger are pure late-60s spaghetti, absolutely classic, with lurid colors, cartoon horses galloping, whiny gunshots and jangly music – the works.

Lee Van Cleef was of course a top spaghetti name, having been Colonel Mortimer for Sergio Leone in For a Few Dollars More in 1965 and Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in ’66. He went on to do a whole series of spaghettis. He was soon to be Sabata. In Day of Anger he plays a typical Van Cleef type, an infamous and lightning-fast gunfighter who comes into town and cleans the place up. Then he goes a bit crazy and shoots everyone in sight.

We are told that “since Doc Holliday died at the OK Corral”, Talby (Van Cleef) is the most feared gunman in the West. These spaghetti writers and directors were admirers of proper Westerns and Tonino Valerii seems to have taken his version of history from My Darling Clementine.
 
Lee rides in
 
Van Cleef’s co-star was the top-billed Giuliano Gemma, a former stuntman who got into spaghetti westerns early and under the name Montgomery Wood was Ringo in 1965. You’ll recognize him if you watch Day of Anger. He plays a put-upon and bullied town youth with the unenviable job of emptying the night soil in Clifton, Arizona. When Lee rides in he gets a new champion and friend.

There’s an in-joke for spaghetti lovers: Gemma’s dumb mule is named Sartana.
 
Bullied youth becomes feared gunfighter
 
As may easily be guessed, Lee teaches the boy to become lightning fast with a gun too, and the day of anger – or rather bloody vengeance – nears. There are the inevitable plot twists to keep us awake, and they almost do.

The New York Times review of the time said

For "Day of Anger" there is not much good to say. It is a strange and muddled film, very long and mostly boring, depending for its plot upon notions of class and caste that seem foreign to the genre if not to real history.

Which probably gets it about right.
 

 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Oregon Trail (Fox, 1959)


Fred's last and worst Western




 
 
 
Wagon trains are a staple of the Western book, movie and TV show, and pretty well always have been. The prairie schooner is as iconic to the genre as the sheriff’s star or the Indian’s whoop. While the real journeys westward along the Oregon Trail were certainly heroic, they often lasted five months and the dangers that occasionally punctuated the trek must have been accompanied by long, long stretches of unutterable boredom. Sadly, the same is sometimes true of wagon-train Western movies. The Covered Wagon of 1923 moved at the pace of the slowest oxen. Later attempts, like The Big Trail, Wagon Wheels, The Way West and so on were also often too long, and frankly dull. Directors and writers had to invent plot devices to liven things up - Indian attacks, badmen among the settlers, romances of course. They had standard set-pieces such as the river crossing that goes wrong, lowering wagons down bluffs, and the rest, which were expected in any such movie. Wagonmaster is good but verges occasionally on the cheesy. The only seriously classy wagon train Western I know of is Westward the Women.

Fred
 
Fred MacMurray never really liked Westerns but he was good in them, and he made quite a few – eleven, twelve or thirteen, depending on your definition of a Western. Unfortunately, though, his very last oater was a cheap, corny, badly-directed and badly-written effort with some poor acting as well, and it was really weak. No wonder Fred didn’t make another one. He moved on to inventing flubber.

The Oregon Trail (no relation to the 1923, 1928, 1936, 1939 or 1947 pictures, yawn) starts back east, in 1846, with Fred in his Meriwether Lewis costume being sent by his boss James Gordon Bennett at The New York Herald on a wagon train to prove that the government is secretly sending soldiers in plain clothes hidden among the settlers to make sure Oregon does not fall into the hands of the dastardly British (I told you they had to invent plot devices). Meanwhile, in Washington, President Polk (Addison Richards) points to a map which curiously already shows the Oregon Compromise (and the lands gained after the Mexican War) and does some double-dealing with the British ambassador (Lumsden Hare).
 
 
The rest of the story is a straight “Wagons roll!” movie with the usual clichés, such as Indian attacks, thirst and so on. On the train are rogue-dreamer John Carradine (quite amusing), with a cargo of apple trees; a ‘settler’ who is obviously an Army captain (William Bishop, very bland); a wholesome family which includes a young girl, naturally, Prudence (unknown Nina Shipman in her only Western); and the usual assortment of settlers. The train boss is Henry Hull, who only ever had two styles of performance, overacting and overacting wildly. His demise is hilariously badly handled by actor and director.
 
That's Carradine third from left, in yet another bad studio shot
 
They finally get to Fort Laramie, which is (of course) one of those wooden toy forts Hollywood always used (Fort Laramie is and was a large open place in a bend of the river). And obviously the Indians launch an attack on it. The attack is very badly handled by the director and is frankly pathetic.
 
Rescue
 
The bad guy is renegade trapper Gabe Hastings (John Dierkes) who is on the Indians’ side. He captures Fred but before he can torture him to death, a fair Indian maid comes to rescue the captive. She is Shona (Gloria Talbott, who is about as Native American as I am). She was 28 to Fred’s 51 but never mind, they can get it together and set off in a wagon together in the last reel.
 
Renegade trapper Gabe threatens Gloria
 
The director was Gene Fowler Jr and he also worked with Louis Vittes on the screenplay. They were best known for such marvels as I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space (which also featured Talbott). They mostly did TV work but managed the occasional big-screen Western, such as the second-rate Charles Bronson picture Showdown at Boot Hill. Really, producer Richard Einfeld and Associate Producers (API) ought to have got someone good instead.
 
Fowler
 
The worst aspect of the picture is the fact that the majority is done on studio sets with backdrops painted so badly as to be embarrassing. Such location shooting as there was is very obviously intercut stock footage taken from other movies.

The opening ballad, which is most unfortunately reprised several times in the movie, is so dire that you’ll have to turn the sound down.

A key element of the plot is the fact that the settlers are able to beat the Indians in the attack on the fort because they have Colt six-shooters. As we are in 1846 and Colt six-shooters haven’t been invented yet, this too is on the phony side.
 
Lucky they have Colt six-shooters
 
No, I’m afraid this movie is very tawdry.

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

At Gunpoint (AA, 1955)


Fred does what a man's gotta do




 
 

Fred MacMurray (left) never really liked Westerns. He once said, "The horse and I were never as one". He was nevertheless very good in oaters, I think, especially if the role required a decent but tough hombre called to duty. And he did quite a lot of them, thirteen in fact, from The Texas Rangers in 1936 to The Oregon Trail in 1959. One of my favorite Fred Westerns was a 1955 Allied Artists effort, At Gunpoint. It is an absolutely classic treatment of that theme so central to the genre, that a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And Fred was ideally cast as the ordinary fellow who may be scared but knows what's right and so he grits his teeth and does it. Fans of 50s Westerns (and I guess that's you, e-pards) definitely need to see this movie.

At Gunpoint was directed by Alfred L Werker (right), a Hollywood vet who went right back to the silent days (he had been part of the crew on Fred Thomson silent Westerns, including the 1927 Jesse James) when he often worked with Lloyd Ingraham (he was Lloyd’s co-Werker, you might say). Mr. Werker had an enormous headstart in life by being born in Deadwood, SD in 1896. Stuart Gilmore, director of the Joel McCrea The Virginian, was born in Tombstone. Dennis Hopper was born in Dodge. These people might be thought to have an unfair advantage in life. Forget silver spoons, this is like being born with a silver Colt in your holster, don't you think? Anyway, Alfred had been at Paramount but later descended to lesser studios and got a rep as a gun-for-hire director, finishing pictures when other directors were fired or got sick. But he was capable of good stuff, like The Last Posse or Three Hours to Kill (both yet to be reviewed, so much to do, so little time, sigh) and he did an excellent job on At Gunpoint.

It was written by ultra-experienced Daniel B Ullman, who bashed out screenplays for B-Westerns for years and years, and very competently too.

Allied Artists pushed the budgetary boat out on the picture. Although it is almost entirely set in town (the nice Western town set AA used) they shot in in Technicolor and CinemaScope, and not only did they get Fred on loan-out from Paramount, they hired a host of really good character actors to back him up.
 
Wide screen color
 
It opens before the titles with outlaw Skip Homeier practicing for the next hold-up with an empty gun, dramatic Carmen Dragon music in the background. (And what a great name Carmen Dragon had). Of course all of us Westernistas know Skip Homeier. Ever since shooting Gregory Peck in the back in The Gunfighter in 1950 he had specialized in sniveling punk kid roles. Dawn at Socorro, Ten Wanted Men, whenever they wanted a punk kid, they reached for the phone and called Skip. By 1955 he was growing out of punk kid roles and was just doing punks. He is ideal as the psychopathic killer in At Gunpoint.
 
Skip great as punk outlaw
 
The great Jack Lambert, another superb Western bad guy, is also in Skip's gang. Well, they decide to rob the bank of the small town of Plainview, Texas, and duly do so, while manager John Qualen looks fearfully on. You just know Skip is going to shoot someone and sure enough, he drills the teller (Byron Foulger). But as the robbers are high-tailing it out of town, having gunned down the elderly marshal (Harry Shannon) in the street before he could even get a shot off, storekeeper Fred emerges, grabs the fallen marshal’s six-shooter and with a really lucky shot gets the outlaw carrying the money, Skip’s brother (John Pickard). Townsman Frank Ferguson picks up his rifle and finishes the fellow off. The rest of the gang get away but Fred ‘n’ Frank are the heroes of the hour.
 
Storekeeper Fred gets off a lucky shot. Nice long-barreled Colt.
 
We meet other characters. Walter Brennan is the cranky old doc, Fred’s friend. Beautiful Dorothy Malone is Fred’s wife Martha (she did two Westerns with him). Lassie boy Tommy Rettig is their son Bill (or was he Rin Tin Tin, I always forget). I told you, it’s a good cast. Whit Bissell and Irving Bacon are tremulous townsmen. Harry Lauter is the federal marshal who drops by to investigate the crime (but soon unfortunately departs). James Griffith is a drifter who calls in to the saloon.
 
Doc Brennan and Fred, happy before the trouble starts
 
Storekeeper Fred is very well liked. He gives candy to the kids and is a loving father and husband. However, once they realize that the gang is hell-bent on avenging their fallen member, and wish to wreak especial revenge on Frank ‘n’ Fred, the townsfolk go all pusillanimous, as townspeople in Westerns are wont to do. It was three years on from High Noon, so everyone was used to this. And then Frank Ferguson is ambushed on the way home and murdered, so they all (except Doc Brennan) find reasons for not backing Fred up. Standing next to Fred would be a dangerous place to be right now. They shun his store, they shun him, they even shun his wife and boy.
 
Loving couple
 
Skip, in his cowardly and punkish way, shoots Martha’s brother Wally, who helps in the store (James O’Hara) through the door, mistaking him for Fred. The townsmen hold a meeting inviting Fred to pack up and leave. Even Dorothy wants to go. But Fred makes a noble speech, telling them that a man’s gotta do etc. And anyway, that would be un-American.

The climax nears, as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (well, the outlaws, anyway) ride down the street as Fred stands alone with a pistol that he doesn’t really know how to use…
 
Here they come...

I don’t think it will be too much of a spoiler to tell you that the bad guys do not win. In fact Doc shoots Skip with his shotgun. Skip is on a wire and is yanked pretty sharply off his horse to the dust. Or his stuntman double is anyway. They'd obviously seen Shane. There’s a sweet shot of the triangular, or rather heart-shaped tableau vivant of Fred, Dorothy and Tommy as we all understand that they will live happily ever after.

Fred is really good in this as the ordinary-Joe general store man who stands up tall when the going gets rough. And the rest of the acting is pretty classy too. The idea of the non-professional citizen facing down the experienced gunmen bad guys was not new and it would be done again of course (3:10 to Yuma two years later is a good example). Indeed, there is little particularly original about this picture. But it’s very well done. Full marks to cast and crew.



 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Star in the Dust (Universal, 1956)


Richard Boone awaits the rope




 
 
John Agar (left) first appeared in Westerns for John Ford in Fort Apache in 1948, with his wife Shirley Temple, and returned in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon the year after. So it was a five-star Western debut. After that he was rather miscast as one of Kirk Douglas’s deputies in Along the Great Divide in 1951 and had secondary roles in a Republic Rod Cameron picture, Woman of the North Country, in ‘52 and an independent B-movie, The Lonesome Trail, in ’55. So he had some background in the genre. Star in the Dust, a reasonably well-budgeted Technicolor offering from Universal, was his first Western as lead. He was OK, I guess.
                                                                                                                  
It’s not quite clear why it’s called that. Agar is a sheriff but never throws down the badge, High Noon-style. I guess it was just a snappy name.

It’s a very Tom Horn-ish story. The Horn figure is Sam Hall (Richard Boone, in rather dudish Have-Gun black with dashing red kerchief) and Sheriff Agar is holding him in a cell waiting for sundown, the hour appointed by the judge for the hanging – for he has been convicted of murdering three farmers, including a boy, the Willie Nickell figure, obviously. The rich cattlemen hired him to kill homesteaders to dissuade others from settling on ‘their’ open range.
 
Killer Hall gets lover Nellie to help him escape
 
The town is split into two camps, both armed and ready to ride. Leif Erikson is the ruthless boss of the ranchers, with Harry Morgan as his pugnacious lieutenant, and the farmers are led by decent Stanley Andrews, with unpleasant schoolmaster Robert Osterloh as their spokesman. The ranchers want to bust Hall out of jail and get him out of the country while the farmers want to break into the jail and lynch him. The sheriff is piggy in the middle.

Paul Fix is Agar’s deputy, so that’s good. There’s also a semi-comic old-timer (James Gleason) who builds the gallows and becomes another deputy, and he turns out to be more resourceful than first imagined. So the sheriff is well supported.

This was Clint Eastwood’s first Western and he has a walk-on two-line part in the first reel as a cowpoke.
 
Clint's debut
 
There are dames, of course. The sheriff loves Leif’s sister Ellen (glam blonde Mamie Van Doren) but she appears conflicted in her loyalties. And Harry Morgan’s wife Nan (Randy Stuart) used to be Leif’s lover and she agrees to help smuggle a gun to Hall. Later she realizes she has been duped. Then there’s Nellie (Coleen Gray) who has fallen for Hall. Actually, to be fair, these characters are quite strongly delineated, and Ms. Stuart anyway rather good.
 
Randy is good
 
It’s all a bit cliché-ridden, to be honest. At one point Fix says, “Sure is quiet” and later Agar says, “Too quiet”. Original it ain’t. The writer was Oscar Brodeny, from a Lee Leighton novel. Brodney had worked on the screenplays of Harvey and The Glenn Miller Story and did some Westerns, notably Frenchie.

There’s a minstrel who sings a running commentary which rapidly becomes annoying. It’s Terry Gilkyson, and I’m afraid his ditty is pretty banal but he wrote Bare Necessities for The Jungle Book, so we forgive him, for Bare Necessities is of course the greatest song ever written in human history, eat your heart out, Schubert.
 
Gets a bit annoying
 
There’s an attempt at psychological Western with Agar constantly being reminded of how good a sheriff his dad was. That isn’t original either. Agar wasn’t exactly charismatic as an actor but in a way the role required that. He is supposed to be “not the man his father was.”
 
John Agar, not the sheriff his dad was
 
It’s shot in Universal’s attractive Western town (you’ll recognize it from countless other oaters) and the color is bright and print-quality good.

The gallows is burned down (good) but it doesn’t save Boone, for an oak tree stands handy. There’s a melodramatic ending on a rooftop.
 
The end is nigh
 
The director was Charles Haas who had been an extra at Universal, promoted to assistant director, and produced and wrote various pictures, several with Marilyn-wannabe Van Doren. This was only his second picture in the director’s chair, and first Western.
 
Haas
 
Boone was reliably good. In this he reminds me a bit of Claude Akins in jail in Rio Bravo. Agar is no Sheriff John Wayne, though (actually, Wayne liked Agar and gave him parts in several of his later Westerns).

But all in all the picture is a bit average. It’s pleasant enough, and the acting passable. I hesitated between a two- and three-revolver rating, and may have been a bit mean. I liked the bit where the sheriff beats up the schoolmaster, wrecking the schoolroom to the delight of the kids, then fines himself for disorderly conduct.


 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Showdown at Boot Hill (Fox, 1958)


Bronson gets his first lead role




 
 
Charles Bronson appeared in big-screen Westerns from 1954, getting small-to-middling parts in pictures such as Vera Cruz, Apache and Drum Beat. His first Western lead role, though (and indeed his last until the 1970s) was Showdown at Boot Hill, a rather dull 1958 black & white B-picture made by Regal Films and released by Fox. Regal was a minor producer of low-budget B-Westerns and sci-fi flicks in the 1950s, owned or part-owned by Fox.

 
The title had a touch of the lurid about it, as well as being inaccurate because the eponymous final fight at the cemetery turns out not to happen.

The picture was directed by Gene Fowler Jr (left), a former editor whose first movie as director this was. He is best known for such marvels as I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space. He mostly did TV work, though the following year he would direct Fred MacMurray's last (and worst) feature Western, The Oregon Trail.

The writer was Louis Vittes, who also did mostly TV scripts but occasionally rode out on the big screen (this was his second feature Western). Unfortunately, between them Fowler and Vittes cooked up a picture that is (I think) supposed to be profound but succeeds only in being pretentious.

Bronson (right) is Deputy US Marshal Luke Welsh, arrived in a small Kansas town to find and bring back to justice a certain Con Maynor (Thomas Browne Henry) who is wanted for three murders. He finds his man and shows his warrant but Maynor shoots it out in the hotel and Welsh kills him. For some reason, the townspeople set themselves against the lawman and do everything they can to thwart him. Their main ambition seems to be to deny him the two hundred dollars reward for Maynor and their tactic is to refuse to identify the dead man.

Certain elements of the townsfolk even decide to kill the marshal, although why they should be so against him and wish to defend a murderer is never made clear. They know the dead man’s brother (George Douglas) as he is a local rancher but they hardly knew Con, yet seem to want to do everything to defend his name and avenge him. It’s all rather implausible.
 
The US marshal with a height complex
 
Welsh has a photograph taken of the corpse which should do as an ID and get him the reward when gets back to St Louis but the townsmen shoot up the photographer’s studio, busting the plate and the camera, so that scheme is a flop.

The leading townsman is John Carradine, who combines the professions of doctor, barber, undertaker and preacher. He is given some dialogue so portentous as to be downright silly, such as, “There's a Boot Hill in every man's soul”, which of course there isn’t.
 
Carradine, exercising one of many of his professions
 
Welsh is supposed to be obsessed with his shortness. While Bronson does indeed look diminutive alongside the top-hatted Carradine (who was six foot even without the stove-pipe) he wasn’t that small (he was 5’8” or 1.74m) so this idea doesn’t work too well. Anyway, quite frankly, who cares? Welsh explains that being so short, bounty-hunting was the only career open to him. Right. His new girlfriend Sally (Fintan Meyler) tells him an undeniable truth: “No matter how many men you kill, it will not make you an inch taller.” He can’t have been very bright if he hadn’t thought of that.

Sally is the virtuous but ashamed daughter of the town whore Jill (Carole Mathews) and she waitresses in the hotel, living an austere and joyless life. I think she is supposed to recognize a kindred spirit in Welsh. They fall in love. Jill has a gambler-gunman lover (Mike Mason) who also unaccountably takes against Welsh (Why? I think we should be told) and tries to gun him down in a saloon but Welsh is too fast for him and he falls wounded. Later he manages to shoot his own lover with a shotgun. Doh.
 
Lerve
 
Finally Welsh attends the funeral of Con at Boot Hill, gunless, thus showing his manhood or something. There is a damp-squib ‘showdown’ and Welsh and Sally fall into each other’s arms to live HEA.

Yawn.

One good thing: Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales has a walk-on part with his burro.

Showdown at Boot Hill aims to be a tense psychological Western and ends up looking like an overwritten episode of some TV show. I suppose it has a certain offbeat/rarity interest, and Bronsonistas might like to see it but myself I never thought Mr. Bronson much of an actor, certainly not in Westerns anyway, and I’d say that the film is skippable.



 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Hard Man (Columbia, 1957)


A good George Sherman Western




 
 
Commenting recently on a post about Guy Madison’s first Western, Massacre River, reader Bart recommended The Hard Man, a later Madison effort. It’s quite a rare film (for example it never got a theater release in France) but it is available on a Sidonis DVD. Sidonis have annoying subtitles you can’t turn off and furthermore you can’t search the catalogue by title – you have to know the French name of the movie - but the picture quality is excellent and they do choose some rarer Westerns, often quite good ones that have been overlooked. Anyway, I ordered it and watched it last night.

Madison had found Western fame in the long-running TV show Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, in which he and his portly sidekick Jingles (Andy Devine) roamed the West doing good, as TV Western heroes were wont to do. It ran pretty well all through the 1950s. But the big-screen oaters he occasionally did between Hickok seasons were grittier and more adult. He’d led in the Gordon Douglas-directed The Charge at Feather River (to be reviewed at some point) in 1953, and Warners’ The Command in ’54. More importantly, he was second-billed in The Last Frontier in ’55, directed by Anthony Mann. In 1956 came Reprisal!, directed by George Sherman.

The diminutive Sherman (right) began his career in the movie business in the mail room at Warner Brothers before working his way up to assistant director. By 1937 he had graduated to directing in his own right at Republic. He specialized in B-Westerns there, including the Three Mesquiteers series, with a young John Wayne. Variety, writing about his handling of the series, even commented on his imparting a "poetry in motion" to his "unified timing of cowboys mounting, riding, wheeling, galloping and dismounting of steeds", which was probably a bit over the top, but he was certainly a pro who knew his business. And just occasionally he turned out a really solid picture, like Comanche with Dana Andrews, Hell Bent for Leather with Audie Murphy and (especially good) Dawn at Socorro with Rory Calhoun. B-Westerns by many people’s standards (it depends on your definition of a B-Western) some of his pictures were taut, well-written, acted and photographed, and noticeably well directed. The Hard Man is one such.

Madison was not perhaps the strongest of Western leads. He did best in roles where he was an ordinary Joe who has to step up to the plate when the going gets tough. In this one, though, he is Texas Ranger Steve Burden, with a rep for not bothering about the …or alive part in WANTED posters. In the first scene, very reminiscent of the opening of Warners’ Seven Men from Now of the year before, Burden comes up on his quarry (Myron Healey), and, though reluctant, nevertheless shoots him dead. The Ranger captain (Francis De Sales) doesn’t approve and is happy to accept his resignation but a visiting sheriff (Robert Burton) thinks that here is the guy (or Guy) he needs. The sheriff is aging and has lost his willingness to brace dangerous gunmen. He believes Burden will do that for him. As Burden thinks the man he shot was framed back at the sheriff’s town and may have been innocent, he takes the job of deputy – in effect, hired gun – in order to find out.
 
He's the Guy
 
The rest of the tale is a tense town drama whose central figure is a woman. Valerie French had been Mae in the Delmer Daves-directed Jubal the year before and there are definite similarities between Mae and Fern, the part she plays in The Hard Man, a manipulative, ruthless rancher’s wife. The movie could almost have been called The Hard Woman. Her husband is the town boss but she is ready to make up to any man who will kill him so that she may inherit. Because she is beautiful and seductive, several men fall for her wiles. She also reminds me of Connie in Ramrod – the glacial Veronica Lake.
 
The Hard Woman
 
The husband, Rice Martin, is very well played by Lorne Greene. He is no decent Ponderosa patriarch here, but a really unpleasant crooked rich man ready to resort to murder to get his way. The part would have suited Lyle Bettger or David Brian, or a shade earlier Victor Jory. But Greene does it very well.
 
Bad guy Lorne
 
Well, hard man Guy does his job – all too well. The sheriff begins to have qualms when the man he has hired faces down and kills Martin’s henchman Rodman (Rudy Bond, quite good as tough guy who likes killing). But we know Guy isn’t really just a bloodthirsty hired gun because he is nice to a boy (Rickie Sorensen), son of a rancher being forced out by grasping Martin. When Martin’s men murder the father, Guy unofficially adopts the lad. Of course no one who is kind to animals or children in the first reel can be bad.
 
The aging sheriff, orphan boy and protective deputy
 
Trevor Bardette is good as Willis, the alcoholic spy in town of Martin, and Frank Richards adequate as the other henchman, Kane. George Dennison (Barry Atwater) is the smoothie lawyer retained by Martin and doing his nefarious bidding while secretly romancing his wife – a dangerous game. Martin disposes of him pretty ruthlessly.
 
The henchman about to be broken by the lawman
 
Sherman has some good touches, for example first building up Fern’s reputation (mention of her name silences conversation), delaying her entrance and then showing her hidden in shadow. It’s well done. I also liked the many references to time: at one point Guy kills time by shooting a High Noonish clock.

The climax is also very well handled (Sherman was good at that) when Martin hires in another thug to shoot down the deputy. Guy knows the man is in town but doesn’t know who it is. We too don’t know, though finally suspect when we only see the man’s chaps-clad legs – again the figure is at first hidden. At last we suddenly see he is wearing an eyepatch, and we have been told that the hired killer had a patch. Martin is thus left to face the deputy one on one, as Guy always told him he would. And there is a clever trick with Martin’s pistol.

This is a good Western. It might have been better with a slightly stronger lead, Rory Calhoun, say. But Madison isn’t bad. And the whole picture is skillfully crafted.